The Golden State Warriors certainly came out like a team anxious to atone for and eliminate the sting of losing last year’s NBA Finals after building a 3-1 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers, only to be on the wrong side of an historic comeback.
On the strength of 38 points, eight rebounds and eight assists from small forward Kevin Durant and 28 to go along with 10 helpers from point guard Stephen Curry, the Warriors fought their way to a 113-91 victory over the Cavaliers in Game 1 of the 2017 NBA Finals at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California Thursday night.
Although the Cavaliers got double-doubles of points and rebounds from forwards LeBron James (28 points, 15 rebounds) and Kevin Love (15, 21), as well as 24 points from point guard Kyrie Irving, it was not enough to overcome 20 turnovers or Golden State’s productivity in the key.
On the strength of a 16-for-32 performance from the field, the Warriors took a 35-30 lead over the Cavaliers after the first quarter.
After a sluggish start from both teams following long layoffs, Cavaliers shooting guard J.R. Smith got things going with a fall-away three-pointer from the left corner of the floor, and following back-to-back baskets from the Warriors, James converted one of his two free throws to even the score at 4-4.
Although the Warriors got an alley-oop dunk on a lob pass from Draymond Green, the Cavaliers went back in front when Love took a pass from James and buried a 26-foot three-pointer from the right wing.
The Cavaliers took a four-point lead, 12-8, when Irving buried a three-pointer from the left corner and followed up with a driving layup two possessions later, but the Warriors answered with a 12-5 run of their own and took a 20-17 advantage, thanks to Durant’s dribble-drives and finishes at the rim.
However, James took over the offense and scored the next seven Cavaliers points.
First, James converted two free-throw attempts after drawing a foul from Warriors center JaVale McGee, and then, with Durant showing on defense, he buried a three-pointer from the top of the key that tied the score at 22 all with 3:12 to play in the quarter.
James punctuated the scoring burst by taking a pass from underneath the basket from center Tristan Thompson and throwing down a thunderous right-handed dunk in response to a McGee slam on the other side of the floor.
The Warriors went up by four points, 30-26, on back-to-back three-pointers from Curry, and reserve forward Andre Iguodala followed with a buzzer-beating catch-and-shoot triple from the right wing for the final basket of the quarter.
Situational scoring and 23 points from Durant staked the Warriors out to a 60-52 lead over the Cavaliers at halftime.
Thanks to several driving dunks from Durant and second-chance opportunities, the Warriors outscored the Cavaliers, 42-16, in the paint and used 11 Cleveland turnovers to score 10 points over the first 24 minutes of play.
The Warriors scored six of the first 10 points in the second quarter, and several of their shots came as a result of hustle pursuit of offensive rebounds, which kept the Cavaliers off-balance on defense.
Iguodala got the Warriors going when after a basket from James, he caught a pass from veteran David West and threw down a dunk. The jam spurred a small run from the Warriors, one that pushed the lead to seven points, 39-32, with 9:37 to play in the half.
While the Cavaliers went scoreless over the next three minutes, the Warriors got a layup from West out of a post-up and a coast-to-coast driving dunk from Durant after he pulled down a defensive rebound from a missed Kyle Korver three-pointer.
James broke the scoring drought with a driving layup in the lane, but that did little to stop the Warriors, who went on a 12-6 run over the next three minutes, and after multiple driving baskets from Durant, took a 55-45 lead with 3:15 remaining in the second quarter.
All of Cleveland’s points during that stretch came from Irving, who hit an off-balance three-pointer and the ensuing free throw after drawing a foul, and later, knocked down a driving layup in traffic.
With Durant continuing to attack the basket and Curry finding a rhythm from three-point range, the Warriors built a 93-72 lead over the Cavaliers after the third quarter.
The Warriors came storming out of the locker room at halftime and quickly built a 21-point lead over the first four minutes of the second half.
After a Cavaliers turnover, Durant buried a heavily-contested 26-foot three-pointer from the left wing. Durant caught a pass from shooting guard Klay Thompson and despite being hassled by Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson, the 6-foot-11 stretch forward rose up and knocked down his first triple of the game.
With Durant already rolling, Curry buried a 17-foot pull-up jumper, and then, followed with a 27-foot three-pointer from the left side of the floor. After an offensive rebound, the Warriors again got the ball to Curry, and he knocked down a triple from the right wing.
Curry’s second three-pointer inside of one minute gave the Warriors a 73-52 lead with 8:03 to play in the third quarter.
Although the Cavaliers went on a 10-2 scoring run, the Warriors got another three-pointer from Curry, this time from the top of the key to go up by 18 points, 78-60.
The Cavaliers got the deficit down to 12 points, 80-68, on a driving layup from Irving, but the Warriors closed out the quarter on a 13-4 run, punctuated by a pull-up 28-foot three-pointer from Curry with 1:54 left in the period and a three-point play from Green on the next possession.
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